Former FDA Chief Warns That CBD-Infused Food Is Still Technically Illegal
The FDA is currently working towards nationwide regulations for cannabidiol products, but in the meantime, line cooks adding drops of CBD oil to your meal is still against the law.
Published on August 12, 2019

Your favorite cafe is probably breaking the law. Come to think of it, so is your favorite ice cream parlor, smoothie spot, and anywhere else that will add a CBD infusion to your food or drink for a few extra dollars.

In a recent appearance on CNBC’s “Squawk Box,” former FDA Chief Scott Gottlieb spoke up about the cultural confusion surrounding cannabidiol, or CBD, in freely sold food and drink products. Despite advertisements for CBD-infused lattes, sundaes, and cheeseburgers on seemingly every commercial strip in the country, Gottlieb says that without FDA approval, those sales are all technically illegal.

“You can’t just put it in the food supply,” Gottlieb said. “Right now, all the CBD is illegal that’s being put into food or dietary supplements.”

Cannabidiol products used for health and wellness purposes have been gaining popularity since the early days of California’s medical marijuana program in the late ‘90s. But with the passing of the Farm Bill last year, low-THC cannabidiol products are now legal across the country, and the CBD industry has since made its way into every nook and cranny of American life.

To finally bring the rapidly expanding industry under government oversight, the FDA is working to construct rules and regulations for the hemp-derived CBD industry as we speak. But since CBD was considered just as illegal as full-strength cannabis until last year, the agency is starting from scratch, and has no current timetable for a final set of regulations. In the meantime, health food stores and salad bars across the nation are offering CBD-infused food and supplements.

Gallery — Feel-Good CBD Memes You Can't Get High On:

In his latest CNBC appearance, Gottlieb warned viewers that just because a product claims to contain “full spectrum” or “pure” CBD oil, doesn’t mean the label is correct. In a number of recent studies, researchers have found lower and higher doses of CBD than advertised, and even high rates of still-illegal THC.

“A lot of it does have high concentrations of THC,” Gottlieb said Friday. “When you get CBD online, a lot of times it has high concentrations of THC.”

While it is still unlikely that federal cops will knock down the door of your local coffee shop to confiscate vials of CBD oil and lock up the baristas, it is important for consumers to know what they are buying, and whether it is legal or not. As for the future of America’s CBD market, Gottlieb is confident that the industry will continue to expand and turn into a cash crop — especially after regulations make the average product a little more trustworthy.

“I think this is going to be an opportunity going forward,” Gottlieb said. “But we really need to sort out the regulation.”

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Zach Harris
Zach Harris is a writer based in Philadelphia whose work has appeared on Noisey, First We Feast, and Jenkem Magazine. You can find him on Twitter @10000youtubes complaining about NBA referees.
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